beekeepers

Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, a U.S. soldier was injured in a training exercise and discharged from the army. Then he found an unusual way to cope with his depression and serve his country: beekeeping.

 


Adam Ingrao, founder of Heroes to Hives, checks on some beehives owned by Michigan State University, in Traverse City.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

When military veterans leave the service, many of them struggle with their return to civilian life. Adam Ingrao was no different.


Eric Lackie

Plenty of people have heard about the plight of the honeybee, as colonies have been disappearing for more than a decade. Across the country, people are getting into recreational beekeeping to do something about it.

Building a stronger honey bee

Sep 1, 2015

Honey bee die-offs are so common now that beekeepers generally just order more bees when they lose a hive. But this has put a lot of pressure on bee breeders to raise more and more bees. And that is only bringing the quality of bees down.

But researchers and backyard beekeepers are now teaming up to build a better honey bee. And not through genetic engineering—through good old-fashioned selection.

That’s right, bees rule. At least that what my second grader thinks after she studied them at school.

“You wrote bees rule. Why do bees rule?” I asked.

“I think it’s neat for how they can make it into honey and that they can speak to each other by doing a dance," she answered.

She, of course, isn’t the only one who think bees rule. A lot of us think they rule. Especially when you consider that around one out of every three bites of food we eat is the result of a bee.

But as you’ve likely heard, bees are in trouble. Beekeepers have been experiencing losses at alarming rates — and scientists across the country are scrambling to try to stop these losses. Whether from Colony Collapse Disorder, or other bee stressors, the problems bees face are more complicated than it once seemed.

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You can thank a bee for about one of every three bites of food we eat.

Jeff Pettis is the research leader for the Bee Research Lab with the Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Most of the nutritious stuff in our diet is probably pollinated by some kind of animal, and most likely a bee,” he says.

Pettis just wrapped up a survey of beekeepers around the country, and he found they lost just over 23% of their bee colonies this past winter.

“The previous about seven-year average has been just over 30%, so this number is a little bit better, but by no means is it a great number for numbers of colonies lost through the winter. Before we got the parasitic mite varroa, we used to lose 5-10% of the colonies in the winter. We got two parasitic mites in the 80s; the numbers jumped between 15-20% losses," he says.